Weather Proofing…

Just two days after I bought this Journey, discovered that many of the owners of this model have an expensive issue…

And that issue is the front windshields can easily end up cracked. Seems they are mounted into a steel frame. Then there are rubber gaskets surrounding them and caulking sort of holding them in place, but not too tightly. Over time, weathering, and the racking RV’s are constantly subjected to on the road, the seals give out or open a bit and allow moisture to leak into the frame, causing rust. This usually happens at the top of the window. At least that is were the majority of leaks form. And after there is a leak causing rust, that rust grows (if the leak is bad enough) and eventually causes inordinate pressure on the window, and that causes the window cracks. In that event, the $800 section of windshield with the crack has to be removed. Sometimes the leak or leaks are bad enough that both windows are cracked or the owner wants all the rust removed after being apprised of the issue. Removing the window will often crack it so shops generally warn the customer about the possibility and often quote both glass pieces.

After the windows are removed the window frame rust needs to be ground off, the metal treated, or replaced, sealed, new caulking installed, new gaskets installed, along with the new windows. So this can end up costing $3,300 to $3,800 or more depending on how much work the owner authorized or how extensive the rust is.

Here’s a short youtube video that shows and explains some things about the issue:

The Winnebago Journeys, like mine, can also have this problem. And I wanted to be ahead of it, so the first thing I did was spray Jasco Prep & Primer up under the front access hatch (where the generator is) up towards the bottom of the window frame. Really tried to saturate the metal up there. The Jasco is an acid that turns rust back into metal and seals it somewhat so rust is stopped from spreading too quickly. Even if it gets wet again. I also sprayed as much as I could along the edges of the windshield from the outside along the edges careful to not get much of the acid on the windows themselves but I’m not certain much got onto the frame…if any. At that time, I was still gathering intelligence about the problem so that’s all I did for a while.

In any event, after all I learned about the problem, it was not a surprise when I got to Oregon and hammered with a giant storm that I found a puddle on the dash. I did cut and run heading towards California and sunshine but got caught a couple times in major storms as I dallied along the way.

And those times it rained, the small puddle on the dash directly in front of the driver a couple inches back from the windshield glass was all I had. That and a couple drops of water starting on the inside of the glass at the top and slowly making their way to the dash. The leak water was not all that rusty either, more dirty than rusty. That’s a good sign from what I read. Means that my leak is fairly new and it hasn’t caused much rust on my frame yet.

Eventually had the time to research and found it’s a pretty common issue for Winnebagos and after quite a bit of time reading and researching, I formulated a plan of attack that suits my situation. Thanks to those others before me with the same problem for posting what they did.

First step is to hang out in the dry desert so any moisture in the window frame dries. After that, what I decided to do is add an aftermarket gutter to the upper edge of the front windows and use 4″ wide synthetic rubber tape to cover the gaskets Winnebago used to hold the windows in place. And while I’m at it, do all the windows on the RV, except those already protected by the awning cover on the passengers side. So for under $125 I hoped to nip this problem in the bud.

This is the synthetic rubber tape I used, from Amazon: Rubber Tape at $13. It would be used to seal the front window gaskets by covering and spanning them a couple inches. Waited for a fairly warm day so the material was easier to work with. Then washed the area with soapy water, rinsed, followed by an alcohol wash.

Ran the tape down the middle of the window, and then across the bottom, covering the gaskets in both areas. Tried to leave as much slack in it as I could, no mean feat as the tape can be difficult to work with standing on a one step stool on top of the picnic table, in a stiff wind. From the inside of the RV, you can’t tell that the tape isn’t part of the window tint. And it hardly changes the view at all. I didn’t cover the top gasket with tape because I was planning on using the window gutter. I am pretty sure that the tape would have stopped the leak on it’s own if I’d used that, but I’d read that it weathers out over just a couple years and I knew that the gutter product can last for years with no maintenance. Then the biggest roadblock to that idea was that I could barely reach that upper area, even standing on my small stool on top of the picnic table and didn’t think I would be able to do a good job of putting on just the tape, or the tape first, than the gutter material above it. I thought it would be much easier to just put up the gutter material over the window and that’s what I ended up doing. Didn’t really have much trouble putting up the gutter.

The three arrows in the picture below indicate where I installed the Synthetic Rubber tape. The bottom section was all one long piece. The vertical section, also one piece but not as long, I tried to center the tape over the gasket and did my best to keep it straight as I applied it. From the inside of the rig, the tape spanning and overlapping by 1″ on a side is not noticeable as that seam is covered by a plastic finish piece. Once I cut the bottom end off at the right place, I curved the tape back and stuck the end to the glass while I installed the horizontal piece. That way the vertical piece would be on top of the horizontal piece so less chance of there being a small leak where the tapes crossed.

Note that with the horizontal application, I put more tape above the window’s rubber gasket than below. That’s for two reasons…one, I didn’t want to put too much tape on the paint below the window, in case sun and weather caused the tape to stick too well, possibly damaging the paint; and two, I felt more tape above the gasket would give me better protection over various weathering conditions of cold and heat. Didn’t want the tape to pull away from the seam to early in it’s lifetime due to weather so used more of it on the glass. Should stick better there then on the rubberized gasket material.

From a few feet back, the tape looks like it belongs on the window. Once you get close up, than you can tell it’s just tape. I’m OK with it though.

After that was done, time to install the gutter material. This aftermarket gutter is what I used, available from Amazon: EZ Gutter

It’s like $30 freakin’ bucks for just 10 feet, so I only started with one roll for the front windshields, it wasn’t until I found how easy it was to install that I decided to do all the windows. None of them are leaking in the Journey, but they did end up leaking in my Bounder and the gutters and tape are very inexpensive insurance. Wasn’t until after I made that decision and ordered another two packages that I found a 25′ roll of pretty much the same stuff for only $42. Doh! Here’s a link: Trim-Loc Drip Rail Stuff comes in black or white. What you do to install is clean the areas with soapy water, rinse, allow to dry, than use rubbing alcohol to clean the area where you plan to attach the tape or gutter. Then quickly wipe the area with a clean cloth. So you need 2 or 3 clean cloths. When the prep was completed I guesstimated the distance from the right side of the window, marked the gutter on the red cover tape with a black marking pen at the supposed middle, cut and pealed back the backing tape on either side of the middle a little ways, and started to stick it down there in the middle. Trying not to stretch it while sticking it down 12″ at a time. After I had a foot stuck down there in the middle, I extended to the other side of the window and cut the gutter with scissors. Just tried to get close when I first measured it so ended up with some overhang and a couple inches of waste to cut off. The gutter material is heavy so cutting near to final length made it easier to apply.  Wasn’t anyone in the RV park with a handy ladder to borrow so I had to use the picnic table and 1-step stool to stand on. Flimsy table top but it supported my weight. It’s a heavy table frame so another reason to start the gutter by sticking it down in the middle. So I wouldn’t have to muscle the table around all over too often as I worked.Missed the drivers side length by a bit. Cut that portion off. Also trimmed off the passenger side. After it was cut properly and stuck down, used my rubber hand roller to seat it. I was unsure how I wanted to do all the other sidewall windows (this was a few days later after I’d ordered and received 2 more packages of the gutters). But it turns out that once you put down the sticky 3M tape, it’s stuck forever and will not easily pry back up for reseating. So the drivers side window gutter looks a bit lopsided. I was trying to channel the water away from the edge of the window, and it had been cool the day I worked on it so the gutter wasn’t very pliable. As a result of those issues, didn’t try to force bend the gutter around the window radius. As it turned out, I didn’t like the look too much so the other windows I did I curved it around after cutting a relief in the gutter material.Here I’m letting the gutter material warm up in the sun so it’s pliable. I learned my lesson with the last attempt…it was too cool at the time so it didn’t bend easily.  After sticking down the majority of the gutter, left it sitting there for a hour so the sun could soften it a bit before I bent it around the corners. To make it easier to install, here too I started sticking it down in the top middle of the window instead of one of the ends so it was nice and solidly stuck down as I bent it around the curves on either end. The gutter was a little stiffer than I’d like even after warming it in the sun. So I was hesitant to bend it too sharply. But on these living room slide windows, I went for broke and bent the gutter to match the window frame. And to facilitate that bend, I used scissors to cut into the backing (but not into the gutter channels) a bit so it would make the corner bend easier. Not sure that was actually needed and I’m sure it wouldn’t be if it had been hot that week I worked on this project.Got better at it as the job progressed. On these slide windows I bent the gutter material around the edges so it was down the sides 6″ or so. And these later installations look better from the ground too. Though I’m more concerned with how well they work and how long they last then how they look.

After 7 months or so of desert living, with one or two rain storms, and a couple trips where I drove in rain, it looks like the gutters and tape are doing the job. The heat of the days and cool nights of the desert didn’t cause any problems with the gutter but the tape did shrink a bit after it cooled off heading into fall. A minor problem. The drip that use to create the small puddle on the dash disappeared and no more drops of rain water running down the inside of the window so that’s a good sign. So I’d call the work with weatherstripping a success.

There is another product I found that might be useful if I do ever have to remove the windows (I plan on keeping this rig for at least 10 years) and that’s POR-15. With proper application, this stuff would totally eliminate any rusting even if there is a leak. It can be applied directly over rust, stabilizes and protects the metal, while preventing any new rust. The stuff is dangerous though and you’d need to buy a respirator if you use it.

There is more to do if I can find a ladder to borrow. That work is along the sides of the front windows. There’s a metal cover on the outer edges that I need to take off and see how the frame looks behind there. I don’t expect it to be too bad because the seal that I can see and probe along the edges seems to be in good condition but even so I’ll treat the frame with the Jasco where I can, than use the tape to cover the areas under those covers.

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